My youngest daughter is confident, outgoing, smart and creative. She is also very determined, stubborn, emotional and wilful. I am … most of the time… able to channel the onset of her many tantrums but there are times (OK frequently – I’m being honest) when I am unable to do this. She will have tantrums for hours – no exaggeration – and refuses to concede until she has broken me or got her own way.
This morning was one of those times when I broke easily. Yesterday I had taken all three children to Legoland with a visiting friend and we had all had an amazing time. There had been moments that I had caught her which averted the onset of a tantrum. The few days prior had seen me in the shadow of a dark cloud that was moving ever closer and even the sun that broke through at times did not shed light on my inner darkness. I woke up this morning already feeling fuzzy in the head and fragile, anxious.
It started well. I made breakfast. Hugged My two eldest on the sofa and chatted about the Legoland trip. My youngest was the last to wake and when she stirred I went in to her room and gave her hugs and kisses, stroked her hair and sang her my usual ‘Good Morning’ song. I cooked her scrambled eggs and ran her a bath as I packed her bag – ready for her to spend weekend with her father. She expressed that she didn’t want to go to her dad’s, yesterday and when she woke, but I tried to gently persuade her. This is what usually happens every fortnight, then she goes and has a great time.
After her bath as the time to leave approached she had a total meltdown over what she was going to wear. Her outfit for the day is a source of constant cause of stress, distress, complaint, tension and argument in our home. It always has been – ever since she could dress herself. Today I was unable to deal with the tears and screaming for an inappropriate outfit for the weather and the planned events for the day. I just started crying. I felt completely overwhelmed and slammed the wardrobe door and left the room to cool off and dry my eyes. She continued to scream at me from the other room. I responded, ‘You are actually driving me out of my mind! I can’t take this anymore! I can’t cope with this anymore!’ I then called her dad to talk to her, she hid under the covers but then agreed to get dressed and we compromised on an outfit. She switched back to happy as if the last hour hadn’t even happened but I felt drained.
My older daughter came into my room and gave me a big hug and told me she loved me. I apologised for shouting in the house and she said it was OK, not my fault. WHO IS BEING THE MUM HERE? I hate that my depression does not allow me complete control of my emotions. I was crying most of the morning – hidden I thought. I am afraid that my illness will have such a negative impact on my precious children. What can I do? I am raising them alone. I have very little support. My mum died two days after my youngest daughters birth. Dad of youngest is present every fortnight, Dad of eldest two – rarely present and when he is, dysfunctional.
Those moments when you realise that your children are checking on you to ensure you are OK… Is that OK? I am filled with guilt and cannot shake this bloody depression fully. There are days I am fine and others when I cannot hold back the tears. I have talked to my children and tried to explain that I am not feeling well inside – emotionally – in my head – that sometimes people can feel something more than sadness that is hard to shake and that it has nothing to do with them. I try to reassure them how amazing and important they are and I say sorry when I feel irritable and when I cannot hide the tears.
Am I a bad mother? Does my depression make me so?
Images: Stephen Hyde ‘Linocut Self-Portrait’